I haven’t spent a lot of time writing about the real things. I’ve dipped into it, dodged it…but I think I’m ready to today, on this lovely Saturday afternoon in Quarantineville, New York, to write about some real shit.
I haven’t found this mandatory quarantine thing to be too difficult. I’ve settled into somewhat of a routine with working from home, still needing to run into the office to exchange files out, but for the most part, feeling pretty productive without the frequent interruptions of the phone ringing and conversations with my co-workers. I do find myself missing the atmosphere of the office though – I’ve found that I sit a long time at home, as I’m not getting up to go make copies, scan documents, use the restroom which is halfway across the building from me. So, without all of that and the interruptions, I feel like I’ve really been ahead of the game, as opposed to behind. I was pretty worried with the attorney I worked directly with resigned and left; I felt like I was going to be under a lot of pressure and then when this pandemic hit, I was even more nervous. It’s all good though – everything’s fine on my end and I’m happy to be working. Right now my wife is not; she was furloughed just over a week ago and had the joy of applying for unemployment this week in a system that’s completely overloaded and in need of a procedural overhaul.
The hardest thing, at first, was knowing that my parents were still in NYC. If you’re new to my blog, my mom was diagnosed with mesothelioma just over a year ago and has undergone chemotherapy and is now going through immunotherapy coupled with chemotherapy. All of her treatment has been at Sloan Kettering in Manhattan, so when the coronavirus showed up in Manhattan, my parents had already been living there for almost a month. In early March, my wife and I traveled down to see them and the number of cases jumped from just a handful to almost a hundred, overnight. My dad was getting nervous because besides attending my mom’s treatments and going for walks, he spends a lot of time online, reading and listening to the news. As things got worse, I just wished that they were back home, in the country. With their things, with their space, in an area that isn’t festering with the sickly when my mom’s immune system is so compromised. Home – where mountains are seen outside of the kitchen and living room windows. Where there’s a yard to walk around in, quite roads to travel on.
By the grace of God, my mom’s cancer doctors in the city decided that she’d be safer back home so my sister went down on a renegade mission to smuggle my parents out of Manhattan. They’ve been back now for just over 2 weeks and it is a relief. While I have not see them (they are quarantined – my mom remains at home and my dad only leaves when he absolutely has to), it’s just nice (to say the least) to know that they are home – for their physical health and mental health. They were renting a studio apartment that was about as big as our kitchen and dining room combined; while there are plenty of places to walk around in the city, the fact of the matter is everyone’s on top of one another, even when they are trying not to be. Hell, the people that have lived there their whole lives probably don’t even realize how sardine-like their lives are on a daily basis compared to living in a very rural setting upstate.
While tomorrow is Easter and normally the families would be getting together for meals, obviously, that is not happening. It’s going to be a very different holiday, indeed.
The most major effect the quarantine has had on me, personally, is (1) the fact that the other night, when I had a MAJOR craving for Chinese take-out, NO PLACE WAS OPEN. ZERO. ZIP. A big cup of go fuck myself was offered instead. My wife persevered, as I was having a horrible day, and we settled on Thai take-out which was lovely, but I really wanted some old school, greasy, take-out Chinese. My wife tends to cook dinner every night; we don’t do a lot of ordering out or going out to eat, so the fact that the restaurants are all closed for seated business has not affected me too much. I will say though that when life goes back to normal, I am really looking forward to brunching so damned hard at Perecca’s in Schenectady with friends and endless mimosas.
The second effect is the fact that since the kids aren’t in school, with no return date really set in stone, they are home with us all day long. They need to be occupied…all day long. Because I am working, they know not to bother/interrupt me unless it’s absolutely necessary, but they also cannot be on their ipads or on other internet-related devices all day because my VPN isn’t super strong and when they are both gaming on their ipads, I get bumped frequently. Kids really shouldn’t be on electronics all day anyway and if you disagree, well, good for you. I’m a firm believer that kids need to run, play, go outside and get dirty…they need to exercise those demons OUT of their bodies, I feel like, MORE SO, when there are two kids. Emma and Jake bicker a LOT, even more so now that they are together 24/7. I’ve noticed that on the rainy days when they are inside, they bicker more. Jake becomes a huge pest (cue the “boys will be boys” adage) if he isn’t getting his adolescent energy out. They are not the type of kids to occupy themselves for very long unless you give them an electronic device and I struggle with that. A lot.
When I was a kid, I remember playing in my homemade sandbox under the big pine tree that’s no longer there. (My parents had it removed last year – it was HUGE and such a pain in the ass because it dropped so many needles, sap, and pinecones.) I remember bouncing a soccer ball like a basketball (because my dad had run over the basketball) up and down the driveway, telling myself stories because I wanted to be an author someday. I remember swinging on my homemade swing set, conquering the monkey bars, and then listening to my Rite Aid brand Walkman for HOURS, waiting to hit “record” when my favorite songs came on the radio station. Long bike rides with my dad, where he’d grab my handlebars on hills that felt steep on my childhood legs to help me up. Sledding at the hill next to the retirement home uptown, where if you didn’t dismount on your sled quick enough, you were taking an unpleasant dip into the stream at the bottom. As an early teenager, my best friend and I would take off on our bicycles ALL DAY LONG, sometimes even crossing state lines and…get this…we didn’t have cell phones! Our parents had no idea where we were exactly and what time we’d be home, just as long as we were home before dark. Walks through the paths in the mountain across the way from my home, my dad carving initials into the side of a tree. Tubing down the Battenkill river on rafts made out of discarded tire tubes; making an entire day out of being lazy on the water.
I want that and more for Emma and Jake – not this childhood full of T.V. shows without a point or any real conversations and certainly not the gaming trend. I am not in charge though. My personality type is to BE IN CHARGE and there are some chapters in time where it really bothers me that I don’t have the ultimate control. Then that chapter ends and a new one begins where I’m fine with being a teammate instead of a leader. I feel like that’s the role a step-parent should ideally be in; a teammate – not the leader. The kids have parents who are very active in their lives – I’m not necessarily needed as a leader on a day to day basis. But I have control issues and I admit that much of the time with things, I feel like I know best. I think that stems from having to make my own way so much through adulthood – I come to an obstacle and I think of a hundred ways around it, not realizing that it isn’t always my job to be the one to come up with the answers. Other people might have answers and that’s okay, too. Their answers can be just as valid.
Back to the quarantine thing – I like home. I like BEING home. I like taking care of projects, doing chores, cleaning. A fun fact about me: every Saturday morning, I look forward to getting up whenever I naturally wake up, and puttering around my house CLEANING. Today, I got up and vacuumed the living room and completely wiped down all surfaces, including the windows. I then cleaned and mopped the kitchen floor. Did my laundry (the last of it is drying outside on the laundry line as I type!), added two more listings to my Mercari shop. My wife and I have sold some items taking up space in our home locally and online. I cleaned and organized the holiday decorations in our basement so now there’s more space to roam free. I’ve taken advantage of the nice days and gone on small hikes, walks, runs, bike rides. I even biked to the office one day this past week in order to change out files. We had topsoil delivered and have added a layer to our garden. So, being forced to be home isn’t a big deal to me and, with the wife home, we are getting some shit done.
Our home has never been cleaner. With me working from home, I have extra time to give heavily-used surfaces some disinfectant love. I have time to do a quick mid-day sweep of the floor, dishes, organizing, fetch with Adam outside for a minute or two. I am hoping that, jokes aside, people are using this at-home time to their advantage. To take care of their shit, to better themselves, to become closer to their family and re-evaluate their purpose and priorities.
This time of quiet can be a blessing, if you choose to see it as such.
Now, I’ve droned on and on. Although the pictures I’m going to share don’t really fit in with all I’ve written, I still want to share. 🙂
My wife and I took a nice, 1.5 hour bike ride today on the Hudson Mohawk bike path. The path took us under the Twin Bridges, which is cool to see from a different angle. It’s also really awesome to see so many people OUTSIDE, as if they are discovering nature for the very first time.
I’ve also spent some time (not as much as you’d think), creating new artwork. I recently finished up a gift basket as a donation for the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless silent auction which is being done virtually in May.
I’ve also made and sold some macramé plant hangers in various colors, this one being my latest addition to my Mercari shop (where I go by “DavisAtHome”):
When the wife was furloughed, my first reaction was to stress. “How am I going to support all of us?” “How can we keep this lifestyle, this house? Will I have to turn in my car?” Legit. I had just nearly emptied my savings due to our NYC trip and spending related thereto…all of this hit at a time where I didn’t have a sufficient nest-egg set aside. I can appreciate the importance of ensuring that emergency fund now. Theresa says we will be fine and well, when you’re in a relationship, you have to trust the person. So while I’ve continued to make things to sell, as well as work toward decluttering our home with items we do not use or need, it’s been more of a distraction from the stress and worry for me; it’s giving me a sense of purpose. Seeing the few dollars roll on in from sales gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment. One more thing gone to someone who wants or needs it; one less thing taking up space here.
So that’s the real REAL, folks, from Niskayuna, New York. Not the center of the pandemic, but a few hours north of it. It’ll be bad here soon, too, given the fact that the city is now shipping up COVID-19 patients to Albany Medical Center for treatment. Already, someone local that I used to know, has died from it. There’s no getting around it, but in the meantime, we continue to work, take mental-health breaks, and persevere.